The Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, founded in September 1999, is part of the Open Society Foundations - a network of philanthropic foundation and the biggest private donor of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance and human rights.
The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. George Soros opened his first international foundation in Hungary in 1984. Today, the Open Society Foundations operate in more than 120 countries, providing thousands of grants every year through a network of national and regional foundations and offices.
Open Society began functioning in Kosovo in 1991 as part of the Soros Foundation for Yugoslavia. In 1993, a branch office of the foundation opened in Prishtina.
The context in which it was operating— a segregated Kosovo, in which Albanians had been fired from the public sector and ran parallel public institutions— determined much of the foundation’s work. The Prishtina office provided materials for schools and trained teachers, as well as organized the translation and publication of books.
As an independent organization, the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society was registered in September 1999, a few months after the end of the Kosovo war. Education was a key priority after the war: together with other donors the Foundation procured 6.2 million textbooks for pupils; meanwhile on its own KFOS established training centers, and began providing scholarships for Kosovars to study abroad
In the following years, the Foundation became increasingly active in domestic policy-making, building partnerships and alliances to advocate for issues that are important to statebuilding processes before and after Kosovo’s declaration of independence. From these early days the Foundation engaged in producing policy reports that cover from energy and environment, to local governance reform, procurement, public health, and minority inclusion.
KFOS also dedicated tremendous efforts to integrate the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, partnering with OSCE to draft the RAE integration strategy, and supporting Kosovo’s application for the Roma Decade.
Today, KFOS works in fighting corruption and increasing transparency in the public sector, helping Kosovo institutions embrace European policies and standards, supporting the integration of the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities into the budding Kosovo society, and fostering student-led alliances to fight impunity and corruption in higher education.
To learn more about our current programs go to:
George Soros is the founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations.
Soros experienced ethnic and political intolerance firsthand. Born in Hungary in 1930, he lived through the Nazi occupation of 1944–1945, which resulted in the murder of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews. His own Jewish family survived by securing false identity papers, concealing their backgrounds, and helping others do the same. Soros later recalled that “not only did we survive, but we managed to help others.”
As the Communists consolidated power in Hungary after the war, Soros left Budapest in 1947 for London, working part-time as a railway porter and as a night-club waiter to support his studies at the London School of Economics. In 1956, he emigrated to the United States, entering the world of finance and investments, where he made his fortune. In 1970, he launched his own hedge fund and went on to become one of the most successful investors in the history of the United States.
George Soros used his fortune to create the Open Society Foundations—a network of foundations, partners, and projects in more than 120 countries. Our name and work reflect the influence on Soros’s thinking of the philosophy of Karl Popper, which Soros first encountered at the London School of Economics. In his book Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper argues that no philosophy or ideology is the final arbiter of truth, and that societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, and respect for individual rights—an approach at the core of the Open Society Foundations’ work.
George Soros began his philanthropy in 1979, giving scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid. In the 1980s, he helped promote the open exchange of ideas in Communist Hungary by funding academic visits to the West and supporting fledgling independent cultural groups, as well as other initiatives. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he created Central European University as a space to foster critical thinking—which at that time was an alien concept for most universities in the former Communist bloc.
With the Cold War over, he gradually expanded his philanthropy to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States, supporting a vast array of new efforts to create more accountable, transparent, and democratic societies. He was one of the early prominent voices to criticize the war on drugs as “arguably more harmful than the drug problem itself,” and helped kick-start America’s medical marijuana movement. In the early 2000s, he became a vocal backer of same-sex marriage efforts. Though his causes have evolved over time, they continue to hew closely to his ideals of an open society.
Our global network of foundations believes that solutions to global challenges demand the free exchange of ideas and thought - the cornerstone of an open society. As a national foundation, KFOS has taken on the mission of promoting the principles of open society as we seek to solve national and regional challenges that face our society.
While our work has changed through the years, its core mission has remained the same: we are committed to building an inclusive society with foundations in human rights and rule of law, and encouraging transparent and accountable governance.
As a result, our mission has led us to a wide array of fields, including education, energy, local governance, minority rights, arts, mental health, anti-corruption and EU integration.